Sunday -- February 15, 2004
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.2 Water Temperature: 42
I finally got around to setting up the files for this year, so now my daily log is back up and running.
There has been quite as bit to write about in the last two weeks. We saw the river freeze five inches thick and we enjoyed two weeks of boatless river crossings.
One Saturday there was a party here and we all ventured onto the ice on the Virginia side of the island. It was thrilling to see how far from the island we could get,
cautiously chopping a holes in the ice every twenty feet or so.
Alas, the warmer temperatures returned and the rain and melting snow caused the river to rise and rise quickly.
I was curios to see how the high water would react with the tons and tons of thick ice everywhere.
What was going to happen to the floats? When will it be unsafe to walk across the channel?
I woke up last Sunday pondering these questions and, as is my habit,I looked out at the river, Its liquid form creeping under the ice and flooding the lower reaches of the island.
Then to my delight I saw a pair of FOXES playing on and around the fallen sycamore, right next to the board walk! The sun had just broken above the horizon and the trees cast long shadows as I watched the frolicking
silhouettes of the foxes chase each other through the snow. Were they trapped on the island by the rising river? Why were they still out at day break, could they be a mating pair throwing caution to the wind?
It does seem to be breeding time, just the other day I was investigating a very strange noise on the hillside above the bridge where I was embarrassed to find two racoons mating high up in the crotch of a tree.
I made it safely off the island that Sunday morning, I needed a canoe to reach the ferry that was still frozen in place, then I needed another canoe to pull myself over the partially frozen channel. Most of the channel was quite
thick but where the current was strongest it was clear water for twenty feet. Jumping from the ice pack into the water and then back onto the ice was an exciting adventure but easily managed while holding the rope.
That afternoon when I returned the river had taken on a much different character. No longer was there flat ice with a channel of open water but a gnarling, twisting, crunching jumble of huge ice blocks with whole trees mercilessly
trapped in an onslaught of drifting ice. It was AMAZING! The Channel between the mainland and the island had become dammed and everything coming down the river was slowly piling up in front of the tow rope. Standing on the steps I watched as tons
of frozen water and trees filled the entire slough. The buckling debris stood three feet above the surface of the water. Finally, with the slow deliberation of a river, the ice dam broke and this mini glacier began to move.
My first hint that something was happening was when I heard the ferry bell ringing violently. The ferry looked like a mere toy as the ice passed authoritatively. The railing was crushed, the chain broken and the pontoon dented as
the ferry was slammed against the trees on the far shore. This massive ice flow, moving at four or five MPH, took the canoe float on a ride and dumped it two hundred feet from its moorings.
The most humbling event was what happened to the captains float. Lumber and plywood are no match for this power and I found that float with a big tree standing in the middle of it with splintered wood all around, the picnic table tossed into the river.
Monday -- February 16, 2004
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.1 Water Temperature: 44
John Matthews came down on Saturday and he helped me fix the broken pulley on the ferry. He brought a new pulley and all we had
to do was somehow get up high enough to put it on the cable that holds the ferry. John, with his wealth of knowledge and experience about such things
explained the technique. If you put a tall ladder against a tree near the shore you can just barely reach the cable. Of course if the ladder slips you're going into the cold river.
I'm making it seem easier than it was. When it comes to island projects there is always a lot of fooling with ropes and chains and lots of trips back and forth to the tool shed.
It was a little precarious but we got it done. It was fun working with Matthews, his know-how and my legs made a good team. It also felt like the elder was passing on valueble lessons about the way things work on the island.
Tuesday -- February 17, 2004
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.0 Water Temperature: 42
Today I start to repair the floats.
Wednesday -- February 18, 2004
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.7 Water Temperature: 37
Thursday -- February 19, 2004
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.5 Water Temperature: 38
Tuesday -- February 24, 2004
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.8 Water Temperature: 41
There are seagulls everywhere down here. Hundreds of them just sit in the water floating downstream then suddenly flying back upstream without any obvious purpose.
The rain today will probably spell the end for the huge chunks of ice that were deposited on the island over two weeks ago.
Wednesday -- February 25, 2004
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.4 Water Temperature: 40
It may be cold outside but the active time of spring is well under way. The morning air is now filled with the songs of the cardinal, the titmouse and the chicadee.
House finches are here and scuffling for mating privaleges. The canada geese are unmistakably present as they begin their predictable nesting rituals and the first groups of wood ducks were spotted yesterday.
The king fisher too has returned to claim it's favorite fishing spots and our winter visitors, the merganzers, have flown off to their northern haunts. I have yet to see our resident ground hog out for an evening
forage but the urgency of the birds tells me that spring is just around the corner.
Thursday -- February 26, 2004
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.2 Water Temperature: 40
I reattached the cable to the swimming dock and got it back on the river in its place.
I removed the damaged parts from the captains float and got the new smaller version of
that dock out in the water. I still need to buy the hinges neccesary to reattach the ramps and the canoe
float requires some elaborate reconstuction.
Friday -- February 27, 2004
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.0 Water Temperature: 40
We just might have some visitors on this good weather weekend.